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Egypt hosts Israeli, Palestinian officials to ease tensions

Egypt is set to host Israeli and Palestinian officials in the resort city of Sharm el Sheikh in a US and Jordanian backed effort to calm a surge of violence in the occupied West Bank. 

The five-way meeting follows a February 26 US-brokered summit in Jordan, the first of its kind in years, that secured Israeli and Palestinian pledges to de-escalate but was challenged by factions on both sides and failed to halt violence on the ground.

The meeting in Sharm el Sheikh “aims to support dialogue between the Palestinian and Israeli sides to work to stop unilateral actions and escalation, and break the existing cycle of violence and achieve calm”, a statement from Egypt’s foreign ministry said.

This could “facilitate the creation of a climate suitable for the resumption of the peace process”, it added.

Palestinian official Hussein al Sheikh tweeted that the meeting was meant to “demand an end to this continuous Israeli aggression against us.”

READ MORE: Israeli-Palestinian talks kick off in Jordan’s Aqaba

Peace talks stalled since 2014

The Palestinians aim to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital – territories Israel captured in a 1967 war.

But peace talks have been stalled since 2014 and Palestinians say Jewish settlement expansion has undermined the chances of a viable state being established.

The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan starts in late March.

In previous years, clashes have erupted between Israeli police and Palestinians around Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque at the height of Ramadan, which coincides this year with Judaism’s Passover and Christian Easter.

Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed by Israel in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those territories since 2004, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Just this year, 85 Palestinians have been killed, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

While the violence began under the previous Israeli government, it has intensified in the first two months of Israel’s new right-wing government, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition.

READ MORE: Ex-Israel PM Olmert urges world leaders to boycott Netanyahu

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